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Summarising a Year on The Road

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 21 January 2014 | Views [816] | Comments [2]

Final flight with my trusty backpack

Final flight with my trusty backpack

I'm trying to remember that person who set out to follow her dream over fifty weeks ago. The one who decided that if you were not happy with your life, it made sense to do something about it by getting rid of unwanted encumbrances and make a fresh start, doing something you always wanted to do, but hardly dared quite believe that you might. Why hold on to what does not make you happy, when with a little courage, you can go in search of something that does. The thought of someday regretting missed opportunities far outweighed the fear of stepping out into the unknown!

Once you start to shed the possessions which clutter your life, it becomes easier and you feel a certain freedom, wondering why you ever thought you actually needed so much stuff anyway! After a year living out of my backpack, I know now that you can live quite comfortably with far less than you imagine. Very few clothes that started the journey with me will be returning and the favourites were definitely those with the most flexibility.

Whilst on the subject of useful items, there are some that I have found invaluable. I always travel with a serong at the ready, as replacement clothing, a pillow or a cover. It is also good to keep a scarf handy. The scented hand fan that I bought from a Bangkok pavement stall gained me a few sweaty friends and masked the less-than-appealing smell of toilets on trains and busses. I loved Tiger Balm for soothing aches and relieving mozzie bite itches and tea tree oil as a general antiseptic. The crocheted-style tops from Thailand smartened up an outfit while taking up very little space or creating more body heat. My faithful beach bag which doubled up as my hand luggage for most of the trip before losing its inner lining and pockets was a great asset, although on reflection a more waterproof option would have been prudent. Once my laptop was devoured by ants, I was totally reliant on my iPhone. How did people travel in the days before an App for Everything? With it I booked hotels, transport, found lists of must-sees, wrote my blog and uploaded all my photos not to mention keeping in touch with family and friends. My little black notebook has been filled with useful information and notes which was especially useful when I was unable to write my blog immediately.

If you can feel your backpack (with wheels) filling up already, there is still more to come! A slimline money pouch takes the stress out of losing valuable documents and spare cash and can be well camouflaged. By the time I reached Queensland I had had enough of travel towels and treated myself to a real one. Despite the extra space it took, it was definitely worth it. When I settle somewhere I am going to indulge myself with a massive soft, fluffy bath towel. My travel kettle element allowed me to have tea, coffee or a cup-a- soup anywhere an electric socket was available. Earplugs would definitely have featured had I stayed in more dorms and there are many tales that might point you towards a single-sex dorm if you are interested in getting a decent night’s sleep.

Personally speaking however, my single biggest companion was my blog. Sometimes when it was hard to go out and push myself, I reasoned that staying in was just not newsworthy. At times it can be pretty lonely and sharing my experiences, whether for information, amusement or hopefully inspiration, was definitely a motivating factor. To think I wrote my very first blog almost a year ago, followed by 78 more stories with over 17,000 views to date – a veritable record for posterity! Over the year I have developed a real passion for writing and for sharing my travels. I would like to think that there are many more stories to come.

How do I begin to describe what I have learned? The person that left, to the person that returned. Broken pieces, fragmented shards of a life - held together in little more than a paper bag have, over time and through experiences, been joined and stuck together in a mosaic which reflects a unique individuality and represents a lifetime lived this far. Through all of this, and strengthened by the cement of true friendship, I feel I have found a validation of self that I did not have before. There was no real defining moment, rather a series of events, realisations and then the processing of them.

Taking time out to travel, whether it is as a gap year, a career break, or simply because there is a whole wide world out there bursting with adventures, challenges, exotic cultures and foods, friends you have yet to meet, a plethora of individual experiences await. How we deal with even the same situations will give a uniqueness to everyone’s trip. I felt sad for some of the gap students who opted to travel on highly organised tours which, in reality, are little more than a slightly more grown up school trip with the addition of copious amounts of alcohol. I wonder whether one day they might regret the opportunities that passed them by in the haze of partying.

Travelling for a year is actually not that long. I think there is a misconception that it is like going on an annual two-week all-inclusive holiday for an entire year. In reality I have spent many, many hours planning ahead, booking up trips and accommodation as well as actually getting from place to place before getting to explore it. I have travelled largely without a specific itinerary, allowing myself to go wherever I was drawn to. My trip has been predominantly about the journey, although I have appreciated some longer stops which allowed me to focus on the destination.

Inevitably we are changed by our experiences by the time we return. I have noticed that blogs generally stop as we 'go back to reality.' I strongly dislike hearing that phrase! We each make our own reality and whether that is struggling through a perhaps relatively mundane life, or pushing out boundaries and doing new and exciting things does not make a life any less real. It is largely a state of mind and life does not have to be a struggle.

During the 348 days I was away I visited 10 countries (6 of which were new destinations for me), took 24 flights on 8 different airlines covering around 70,000 air kilometres, countless more by road, rail and sea, slept in 86 different beds, learned snippets of 3 different languages, had 4 haircuts in 4 countries – with differing results, wrote 77 blogs and took thousands of photos. There was no clear favourite destination as each had its own merits but if I had to choose one place to do again, it would probably be South Africa, if only for the sheer diversity of all it has to offer.

Looking back on it all, there is nothing I would change and it is with certainty I can justifiably state that butterflies are always at their best when free!

 

 

Tags: backpacking, blogs, career break, gap year, travelling, useful items

Comments

1

Hey there, how much did you save up for the one year trip? :)

  Lisa Apr 7, 2014 1:13 AM

2

There are too many factors to give a price. Better to have a budget & aim to live within it.

  butterfly-freed May 5, 2014 7:02 AM

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